Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are Marketers REALLY Ready for Cross-Channel?

I recently purchased a couple of items last weekend at Sears. The checkout lady asked me if I wanted to sign up for Sears' email marketing newsletter. Huh? Usually I'm asked if I want to sign up for a Sears credit card and receive a 10% discount on the spot. Turns out Sears is really pushing their employees to sign up customers for the email newsletters - in fact, giving them incentives for doing so. Maybe this isn't a nation-wide drive, but it's certainly happening in my neck of the woods.

Acting on a tip, I went to the web site to opt-in for text alerts on deals.

The text response was something that I'd expect following mobile messaging best practices. Good summary of what I opt-ed in for. Good explanation of how to opt-out.

But wait! What about an invitation to opt-in for email newsletters? Sure, is a nice mobile-optimized site. But what about using this text alert opt-in event as an opportunity to invite me to opt-in for email marketing?

To be fair, the web site features both email opt-in and mobile opt-in side by side on the same page. But why not use mobile messaging as a lead source for email messaging, and vice-versa? I also opt-ed in to Sears' email marketing campaigns and received the standard welcome email.

And, as I suspected, no mention of opting in for mobile events. A missed opportunity for cross-channel marketing!

I've been monitoring a lot of what marketers are talking about - both in their blog posts, their Tweets and so forth - looking to see if anyone is making the connection between mobile and email marketing. One thing is becoming clear to me: very very few mobile marketers are talking about email marketing and equally rare are email marketers talking about mobile marketing. For example, in her 200-plus page book, "Mobile Marketing Handbook", Dushinski devotes a mere 5 sentences to the subject of mobile email. In their almost 300-page book, "Email Marketing an Hour a Day", Mullen and Daniels are likewise a tad light on ideas for cross-channel marketing. But to their credit at least they do mention US Airways' tactic of combining Print and SMS as channels for generating opt-ins to email marketing.

So what's the deal? Could it be that agencies and corporate marketing departments have constructed walls of separation between mobile and email? Both are interactive online channels. Why aren't there more real-life examples of cross-channel marketing campaigns combining the best of SMS and email? Could it just be that marketers themselves aren't yet ready for cross-channel marketing? Are mobile marketers coming from backgrounds other than email marketing? Are email marketers keeping their feet firmly entrenched in their channel? Or perhaps the answer is the most simple: it's all still new and we're all still trying to figure it all out.

If you're a marketer in the interactive space, what's your forte? Mobile? Email? Both? Is your organizational alignment preventing you from implementing effective cross-channel campaigns? Do you have any real-life examples of effective cross-channel campaigns? Let me hear from you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Life In Between the Spaces - Mobile Marketing Opportunities

I have just completed my analysis of a simple survey I ran in early May. I sent out a series of tweets inviting anyone to take my Mobile Usage survey. Some of my tweets were focused to attendees of various marketing conferences that were taking place at the time. Considering that I wasn't giving anything away to reward survey responses, I'm pretty happy with the 42 that I got. Here's a summary of what I found. Compare my survey respondents with your personal observations to see how much they line up.

As expected from the audience that I targeted with my survey, the majority (74%) of respondents said that their mobile device was a smartphone - with Blackberries and the iPhone combining for 68% of all devices.

If this percentage is indicative of the whole population, then I would say that these results seem to support the consensus opinion that WAP is going away as more and more people are purchasing smartphones for their personal use along with the rich Internet browsing experience that they provide.

I asked what people use their mobile devices for, giving them a list of 11 different tasks, with an additional 12th option to fill in. Talking on the device was the #1 usage (it is after all a phone), followed by text messaging, reading email, surfing the web, and using the built-in GPS. The high percentage of people texting on their devices certainly is consistent with what we all know.

But, while the people use their mobile devices for a wide variety of different activities, they primarily use them for talking and for reading email. This finding supports other surveys similarly reporting reading of email being a highly common usage of mobile devices.

Mobile devices are truly personal - it is perhaps the most personal device ever. People interact with their mobile devices at all times during the day and night, using it to both fill in downtime between activities, and also as a defined scheduled activity itself. I especially love the 12% of the people who were honest enough to 'fess that they use their mobile devices while in the bathroom. (Yes, my hand is raised too.)

Which brings me back to the subject of email. People are interacting with their mobile devices "in between the spaces" of their lives. So when they are reading their emails, they are typically doing so less than 5 minutes each time. So just as people do snack in between meals, people are snacking on mobile Internet content in between times of consuming rich Internet content.

Some of the data seems to debunk a bit of posturing going on in the blogosphere lately regarding email and social media. There remains a strong correlation between people who surf the Internet (including social sites) and those who read email. Consider this:
- Of the people who don't use their mobile devices to read email none of them use their devices to surf the Net either.
- Of the people who do use their mobile devices to read email, almost all use them to surf the Net (91%). Of the people whose primary usage of their mobile devices includes reading emails, almost all also use their devices to surf the Net (86%).

- Of the people who don't use their mobile devices to surf the Net, some still use them to read email (25%).
- Of the people who do use their mobile devices to surf the Net, every single one of them uses their devices to read email.

So it would appear that all the talk about social sites replacing email is just that - talk. I believe that social sites and email are complementary communication channels, not competitive.

There is also a strong correlation between using the mobile device for reading email and for text messaging.
- Of the people who don't use their mobile devices for texting, half still use them to read email.
- Of the people who do use their mobile devices for texting, the majority also use them to read email (83%).

- Of the people who use their mobile devices to read email almost all also use them for text messaging (91%).

So what conclusions can I draw from my informal mobile usage survey?
(1) People use their mobile devices to snack on mobile Internet content in between the spaces of their lives
(2) Email reading is a BIG part of daily mobile usage activities.
(3) There is a strong correlation of usage between email reading, web surfing, and text messaging.

The final takeaway is that people are highly engaged with their mobile devices. Savvy interactive marketers must NOT treat SMS marketing as a vertical, stove-piped, siloed (call it what you will) marketing channel. Neither should these marketers treat email marketing as a stand-alone channel. Successful interactive marketers MUST recognize that owners of smartphones are a target rich group of people (I'm including myself in that mix as an iPhone owner) and that mobile cross-channel campaigns are going to be the big winners.

Email me if you'd like a copy of my survey results. I'll send you the results in a pivot table that you can slice and dice for your analytical needs. No personally identifiable information was collected in this survey.